Study Guide

Atonement Chapter 14

By Ian McEwan

Chapter 14

  • The omniscient narrator tells us that Briony will one day remember the evening she's about to describe over and over, with great guilt.
  • At the house, Lola is taken to her room by Emily and other women to await the doctor. As Robbie hasn't returned to the house yet, this leaves Briony center stage (a.k.a. her favorite spot), with everyone listening to her. It fits quite nicely with her new sense of herself as grown up. 
  • The police arrive and interview Briony, who relishes her position as the sole witness.
  • Despite enjoying her central role, the evening is hazy for Briony. She remembers the doctor coming and people whispering amongst themselves in small groups; she remembers Paul Marshall showing up. 
  • Cecilia keeps to the peripheries, chain smoking and silent with bloodshot eyes. We can't say we blame the poor girl—she's in the middle of a pretty rough run.
  • Oh yeah—the twins are still missing, so search parties are sent out to look for them while everyone awaits Robbie's return and Jack Tallis's arrival home.
  • While waiting, Briony suddenly gets the idea to show everyone the letter Robbie gave Cecilia. Without asking Cecilia.
  • Guess what? After the cops, Leon and Emily read the letter, Cecilia notices what's going on and is outraged. And guess what else? No one will let her say much of anything. It's pretty hard to watch.
  • And then, in case things weren't awesome enough right now, Emily blames Cecilia for the assault on Lola, claiming that if Cecilia had brought the letter to her mother earlier then Emily could have prevented the whole debacle.
  • It's hard to like Emily at all in this moment, right?
  • Briony is formally interviewed by the police in the library and, as they aren't probing her too hard at this point, takes the space to really craft her story.
  • A call comes in from Jack Tallis's driver to say that his car has broken down and they won't be able to reach the house that evening.
  • In early morning, Robbie returns with the twins, whom he has found and brought home. Three cheers for Robbie!
  • Oh wait—everyone thinks he assaulted Lola, thanks to Briony.
  • Emily sends Briony to bed. Briony is worried that no one will believe that Robbie was the rapist since he rescued the children (and, you know, because Briony isn't actually sure she saw him), so she is relieved to see him handcuffed from her bedroom window.
  • As Robbie is being put in the police car, Cecilia comes running up. She and Robbie speak to each other privately, and she touches him kindly. 
  • Then Robbie is put in the police car, and he's off.
  • But wait—not so fast. Grace Turner is walking straight towards the police car, right down the middle of the driveway, and she shows no sign of stepping out of the way.
  • Police come out to move her, and she strikes them with her umbrella. She calls them liars over and over, which is totally appropriate when your son has been falsely accused of a really awful crime.